Qrow admits, he had his doubts when he accepted a role at Ozpin's new gig. Big corporations were never his thing, he just wanted to code in peace. But Oz had sent him a polite email asking to catch up over coffee, and that turned into an office visit, meeting team members, discussing a hypothetical system implementation... and before Qrow knew it, he was Oz's new lead security engineer.
In hindsight, Qrow should have realized that the moment he agreed to hear Oz out, he had practically signed on. Qrow decided to give it a few weeks, to be fair, and will reluctantly admit it's not as bad as he had imagined. Maybe Remnant Incorporated was different - or maybe Oz just ran his department however the hell he wanted.
It's also nice working with people he was familiar with: Glynda knew it was easier to let him operate on his own, and Leo rarely looped him into anything under his purview. James... the thing with James is that his projects often involved everyone in the Security department. Qrow gets it. James wouldn't be much of an Incident Response Manager if he didn't know what everyone was working on and kept the team informed of his action items.
So, Qrow resigned himself to the fact that yes, he needs to attend James' daily stand-up meeting. Every day. At 8:30 AM. In person. Because for some reason dialing in like all the young kids do these days wasn't acceptable. It's... fine. The commute to Remnant Inc. is much shorter compared to that of his old job, so he didn't need to wake up any earlier. Qrow still has time to get his lifeblood (read: coffee), which makes listening to James' status updates slightly more bearable.
And then one Friday afternoon, just as Qrow was about to close up shop, he receives a notification:
Updated Event: Project Atlas Stand-Up @ Daily, 8:00 AM - 8:15 AM
Qrow slams his laptop shut so loudly the other security engineers jump in fright, one falls off their chair.
Luckily for James, Glynda is the first person Qrow crosses paths with. She dismisses his concerns so quickly, and in such a motherly tone ("Qrow, it's only half an hour earlier, surely there are other things you should be worried about,") that he can't help but sulk toward the elevator and out the building. He turns Glynda's words around in his mind the rest of the night, which along with the idea of facing a disappointed Oz, convince him to set his alarm earlier. He would pick his battles.
Unfortunately for Qrow, bad luck has always been overly friendly with him. He misses his train, trips over someone running through the heart of downtown, and can't even stop by his favorite coffee shop to refill his soul. No, it was 7:53 AM and if there was one thing his morning did not need, it was the frigid glare of James' right-hand, Winter, if he came in late. Qrow stomps into Remnant Inc., tags his ID badge at the turnstile, and starts regretting his life choices.
Qrow's elevator doesn't stop once to pick up another passenger. He supposes at this hour, there isn't much traffic. That brings him face-to-face with something he had all but forgotten about: the coffee bar on the 7th floor. The lobby on 7th was a little bigger, a little more showy, perfect for investors or big-name clients to marvel at as they waited to be charmed by Remnant Inc.'s leadership team. That also warranted it a small and highly over-priced coffee kiosk. Qrow bought something there once, the day he stopped by to visit Oz, and he can't remember ever paying so much for so little in return. But the less rational part of his brain, the part that wasn't particularly concerned about his wallet, told him that he needed caffeine, and it would only be this one time.
Qrow checks his phone: 7:55 AM. He could make this work.
There's one person staffed: a tall, brown-haired man, wearing a uniform polo and a crisp black apron. He instantly turns to greet Qrow with a sunny smile.
"Good morning! Early isn't it?"
Qrow fights the almost impossible urge to chew him out. "...Yeah,"
"What can I get you?"
"Coffee, iced," he mumbles as he opens the mobile wallet app on his phone. "Please,"
"Coming right up!"
Qrow begins to question his decision. Not that it's the man's fault, customer service being what it is, he's just not mentally equipped to function as a polite human being this early in the morning. Adding salt to the wound, his digital payment refuses to process.
"Hm, it looks like the terminal isn't registering your app," the barista says as he sets down Qrow's drink. "Do you want to try a credit card?"
Qrow shakes his head. Knowing his luck, the card would jam. He takes 5 lien out of his wallet and slides it over with a faint: "Thanks,"
As he grabs a lid for his coffee, the barista thrusts a pastry bag into his line of sight. Qrow startles.
"I think you're going to need this, too,"
Qrow takes the bag and peers inside. It's a danish.
"Oh, uh... I don't--"
"We're trying out a new bakery and they gave us extra," he explains. "Not that we have any say in the matter, but hey, may as well spread the wealth,"
Qrow finds that he can't really argue with that. Normally he buys a snack as part of his morning routine anyway.
"Clover," the man offers. At which point Qrow realizes his apron doesn't have a name tag, just a shiny four-leaf pin.
"Qrow," he returns out of reflex.
"You're welcome, Qrow," Clover says. "Have a good day! See you again soon,"
Later, when Qrow is blearily nodding along to James' building access analysis, enough caffeine has seeped into his consciousness for him to realize that visiting the coffee bar may not have been the worst thing in the world.
Turns out, Qrow never makes the early train. He does, however, learn some shortcuts to get him to the 7th floor with a more comfortable buffer. He tried going back to his favorite cafe, but the line was always out the door and time wasn't a commodity he could spare if James had any say in the matter.
So, his new routine consists of purchasing an expensive iced coffee from Clover's kiosk and learning a little more about the man every day. Conversation is surface-level at best, there was only so much information one could reasonably exchange over a cash register, but it made starting the day listening to vendor policy revisions more manageable.
By the second week, Clover had Qrow's order waiting for him at the bar, and they spent their few minutes picking up where they left off. Qrow would leave lien on his way out, and Clover would always part with a wave and a smile. It wasn't a bad thing to get used to.
"Qrow, a word, please,"
Qrow does a double-take. Oz rarely steps onto the floor aside from getting to and from conference rooms. The other engineers in his pod all look to him, they probably haven't seen the big boss before.
He shrugs. "Back to your office?"
Oz merely walks away, making a brief motion with his hand. Qrow sighs and shuts his laptop, muttering: "s'no big deal, get back to it," to the team before grabbing his phone and stretching his legs. When he catches up to Oz, they're on a path toward the main exit.
"I thought we could discuss how you're adjusting, it's been a few weeks now,"
"Oh, I mean, things are going about as well as I figured," Qrow hides his hands in his pockets. "Not as stuffy as I imagined,"
At that, Oz smiles. "Good to hear," he pushes the door open. "Coffee? I noticed you've only had one cup so far,"
Qrow laughs. "Trying to set a good example for all those young engineers you've conveniently placed around me. Hope you remember, I'm not much of a mentor,"
"I'm sure they appreciate any guidance you could provide," he muses.
Qrow shakes his head slightly, typical Oz response. He doesn't have much time to dissect it, as he realizes they're going to Clover's kiosk and not an external cafe. As odd as it is to think, Qrow's never really interacted with Clover while fully awake.
"Good morning, or good afternoon, it would seem," Oz says to the barista.
"It's always time for coffee around here. What can I getcha?"
It's not Clover. It's a woman, same uniform polo and black apron, and her platinum blonde hair is styled in a way that almost made it look like rabb--
"Qrow, just a coffee?"
Qrow blinks and stares at Oz, then to the barista, who's tapping her fingers against the counter, waiting for his order.
"Y-Yeah that works,"
Oz smiles, handing his card to the barista. "Two please,"
Qrow schools himself to be a little more alert. At least Oz knows this is how he always is. And he rarely stops by the kiosk after the morning so he doesn't really care what impression he makes to the afternoon staff. Qrow guesses Clover has the opening shift; he probably leaves just before noon, which would explain why Qrow never sees him later in the day.
This barista seems to whiz through the tiny set up, bringing them their drinks before Oz's payment completes.
"Thank you, you're quite efficient,"
"That's my job. Have a good day," she says.
Oz takes a sip and hums thoughtfully. He heads to some chairs near the windows, trusting Qrow to follow. "Now then, shall we review your plans for next quarter?"
The following day, Qrow finds himself at the 7th floor of Remnant Inc. very, very early. Maybe Oz's impromptu check-in had spurred something in him. Or he wanted to see the surprised look on Winter's face at beating her to Jimmy's meeting. Surely, it didn't have anything to do with seeing if Clover was still working at the coffee bar.
But as Qrow turns the corner and the unassuming bar comes into view, there's Clover, hauling a few boxes from a storage cabinet against the wall. He is simultaneously relieved, and panicked, unsure of what to do at being there before Clover was done with his opening routine.
And now he couldn't even sneak away. Qrow walks a few embarrassing steps over, doing his best (read: worst) at being nonchalant.
"Good morning," Clover checks the time. "You're pretty early. Sorry I don't have your drink ready,"
"No, don't worry about it. I... took a new route today,"
"Great! Guess that means you don't have to rush through our little chats anymore," he says. "Lucky me,"
Qrow feels his neck heat up and oh, that's... new. He tries to push the conversation back into neutral territory, asking about how Clover preps the bar and sets out the pastries. He does not ask about the female barista from yesterday, or what Clover's schedule is. It wasn't his business, to be honest. Before he knows it, Clover's fixed his drink and Qrow can't find another reason to stay longer.
"Morning, Mr. Branwen!"
Qrow pivots, a handful of the security engineers appear, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Qrow's almost 98% sure he's hallucinating, so takes a sip of coffee. Nope, still there. Waving politely at him. Why were they still there waving politely at him?
"Friends of yours?" Clover asks quietly.
"They're uh... my team," he mumbles, somewhat unsure of the label.
"Well then, I'll be on my best behavior," Clover says with a... did he wink? And then turns to greet his new customers. Qrow decides to walk away before something unfortunate happens, mainly to his dignity. On his fourth sip, something catches his eye on the floor. It's a four-leaf pin. Clover must have dislodged it when he was carrying the boxes. He thinks about leaving it on the counter, but ends up pocketing it instead. He'll return it tomorrow.
Qrow does not return the pin the next day, because Clover isn't at the coffee kiosk the next day. It's another barista, a tall and slightly pale man, toting the standard uniform. He makes a beeline for the office entrance and suffers making something reminiscent of caffeine from the capsule machine in the communal kitchen. It's a testament to just how out of sorts he is when Winter of all people, catches him after the meeting and recommends he try leaving the house a little earlier to allow time to visit a cafe before coming to the office.
The morning after that, Qrow hedges his bets and arrives at the 7th floor with a to-go cup already in hand. It isn't anything special, the cafe within the train terminal didn't have a line, and the last thing he wanted was to worry another person in the department due to his coffee-less mood. And if Clover was there, he'd buy his usual and give the extra drink away.
But Clover isn't there. Instead, a very energetic young man and woman immediately greet him and try to flag him down. Their enthusiasm at five to eight doesn't even register in his mind, and Qrow is silently grateful that a delivery person arrives to keep them busy. He does his best to slink into office, turning the four-leaf pin over and over in his hand.
Later, he realizes that he has been actively fidgeting with the pin when one of the newer engineers comes by to ask him a question and points it out. Qrow sets it down and turns his attention to the script in front of him to the best of his ability.
Maybe Clover quit. He never mentioned if he had other job opportunities in play, but someone as smart and witty as Clover could surely find a job better suited to his skillset if he tried. And he wasn't obligated to tell Qrow if he planned on leaving. Why would he? Qrow's just another customer.
The pin reflects the fading sunset against his monitor. Qrow leans back in his chair and stretches. Should he turn it in to lost and found? Did it even matter if he did? It's just a pin. Qrow's all packed up and thinks about leaving it on his desk.
"Night, Mr. Branwen,"
"Thanks for reviewing my assignment!"
"See you next week,"
Qrow tucks the pin into his pocket and follows his engineers out the door.
Qrow tries not to make a habit out of checking his work email during the weekend. He may not have an immediate family to spend time with, but he didn't want to become that person. Even he had limits.
But curiosity gets the better of him when Glynda pushes a notification to him from their company messaging app. He clicks on the scroll icon and reads:
Check your calendar - Don't make a big deal out of it.
Qrow groans, that is a terrible preface message. As if he's going to feel anything but dread or annoyance or something similar with that as the tip-off.
He runs a hand over his face as he signs-in to his Remnant email and tries to brace himself. Maybe Oz was finally going to run an All-Hands meeting and wanted him to present something. Or he noticed Qrow's been nicer to the young engineers and is going to assign him more.
There are quite a few new messages waiting in his inbox. He filters to just calendar notifications until--
Updated Event: Project Atlas Stand-Up @ Daily, 7:00 AM - 7:30 AM
Qrow... carefully signs out and pushes his laptop away.
About five minutes later, two of his neighbors call the police to file a violent noise complaint. And one leaves a message on the anonymous tip line that it sounds like a murder is taking place.
Qrow doesn't even try with public transportation Monday morning. He hails a taxi and plans to expense it. It drops him off right in front of Remnant Inc. No coffee, no pastry, he wanted Jimmy to feel his full un-caffeinated wrath. The 7th floor kiosk wasn't even open yet, so no Clover theories to distract him either. He marches straight to the conference room prepared to ask what Jim's fucking problem was.
"Good morning, Qrow. My, you're quite early,"
"I appreciate the dedication," he says, amused. "I'm glad you and James are seeing eye-to-eye about the importance of this project,"
Ok, Qrow can wait until the afternoon. Maybe it's better to deliver swift justice later in the day when no one would notice if James mysteriously disappeared. That's fine. Qrow simmers his rage, plopping down in a chair on the opposite end of the table. Leo wisely keeps his distance after a failed greeting. Glynda shakes her head and sits next to Oz. James strolls in last, with Winter close behind. She stands at attention next to the podium, prepared to launch the presentation.
"Good morning, team," he starts. "I appreciate you all being here a little earlier than usual,"
Qrow glares at him point-blank, not that James makes eye contact with him.
"This won't be routine, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to introduce my new team and address any questions you may have about their duties,"
New team? Qrow chews on it and vaguely recalls James had mentioned assembling a small group for Project Atlas. He can already picture four more Winters policing the floor and instantly frowns.
James turns to Winter and nods. She takes the cue and opens the door, whispering something, and then resumes her post. Qrow turns his chair, ready to pass judgment on the first unfortunate soul who walks in.
Qrow balks. His chair squeaking under his abrupt shock.
He's a little more polished: hair slicked back with an earpiece and radio clipped to his belt, crisp white vest patterned in red and blue, not unlike James' typical attire. He strides confidently to the front of the room and when he turns to address everyone, catches Qrow's flabbergasted expression and smiles.
Four others follow his lead, outfitted in variations of Clover's uniform, but clearly matching enough that any passerby could identify them as a team. Qrow bites the inside of his cheek as the puzzle pieces come together: they're the baristas he's seen in the past weeks.
"It's my pleasure to introduce you to the Ace Operatives. They will report directly to me and execute the following initiatives for Project Atlas,"
Winter begins cycling through the slide deck, with James pointing out key objectives along the way. Qrow is still mildly in shock, but registers a few bits:
"...asked them to evaluate existing weak points through casual observation..."
"...reviewing external vendors who regularly access the building..."
"...establishing a new badge system for all personnel..."
He can't believe he didn't connect the dots sooner. Or maybe he can. Qrow fidgets with the four-leaf pin still in his pocket. Maybe if he hadn't been so distracted by someone he would have realized that the entire coffee bar situation was a little odd in general.
"Now, if there aren't any questions, let's continue with our regular agenda," James says.
Qrow looks up, expecting Clover and his team to leave, but instead, they all take a seat at the table to join the remainder of the meeting. Clover, the last to make his way over, takes the empty chair next to him.
"I apologize for not properly introducing myself when we first met," Clover whispers as Winter prepares the next presentation.
Qrow grumbles. "It's ok,"
"Can I make it up to you? Perhaps we can... get a coffee later?"
Qrow wants to stay mad, to channel his irritation at Clover and his fancy vest and witty comebacks. But the look he gives Qrow is so sincere, a little embarrassed even, at having masqueraded as a barista for weeks. Qrow exhales the tension in his shoulders.
"Fine," he pulls the pin out of his pocket and slides it into Clover's open hand. "But you're buying,"
Clover laughs, a relieved smile on his face. "It's a date,"